Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Prof. Margot and Ravihansa from QUT, Australia.

Ravihansa and Prof. Margot
Last week was a so much busy time. In ICTer 2014 conference, I had been assigned various duties and therefore I had to run here and there to organize different things for about a week. Mainly I was assigned to facilitate a workshop conducted by the Zone24x7 company on 13th December and also a session in 12th December. However, I involved in many other works and lot of those things were really interesting. Besides all the things, I decided to write today about two interesting workshops I attended and a keynote speech in ICTer conference.

Ravihansa Rajapakse was once a student at University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) and was a one year senior to me. After he finished his bachelors degree, he worked in our junior academic staff. Now he is in Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Australia studying for his PhD. He came to Sri Lanka for the ICter conference not alone but with his supervisor who is a very nice lady. She is Prof. Margot Brereton from QUT. Ravihansa conducted a very interesting workshop in 10th December and then Prof. Margot delivered her keynote speech at ICTer conference in 11th. She did another nice workshop in 13th December. I was lucky to attend all these events while managing my time for various official duties.

Our prototype :D
First of all, I have to write about Mr. Ravihansa's workshop which was so interesting than I ever thought. I knew him for several years as he was a senior to me in my undergraduate degree. However, this is the first time I got a chance to be in the audience of a lecture or a workshop conducted by him. His workshop title was "Build First Plan Later: The Voice of DIY Approach in Today's Design". The whole point he tried to convince us from this workshop as I understood was, sometimes it's better to build things with the user instead of designing and building something separately and then applying it to the user context. He brought various things such as fruits, stationaries, clay, etc and in addition to that, he had brought few kits called Makey Makey. Mr. Dulan Wathugala who was once a great teacher and a mentor to us also attended to this workshop which made me so happy. We had a chat during the tea break of the workshop about various new technological trends.

Among different activities we did, the main task was to organize as a group and then select one person as a client who has a special requirement. This requirement is having some loved one in a long distance so that this group member has a need to be connected with the loved one. The task of the group is to talk with her and identify a method which provides a connectedness between her and the loved one. We formed a group where we had me, Chathura Suduwella and three members from software development unit (SDU) of UCSC. Actually I didn't know those three before this workshop and while performing the group work I made a friendship with them too. One girl in our group is selected as the client whose parents are living out of Colombo while she lives in Colombo. Our goal is to make a connection between she and her parents in some way other than standard communication mechanisms such as telephone calls, text messages, etc. After having interviews with our group member who is the client and also after a long brainstorming among the group members, finally Chathura came up with a great idea which everybody liked.

Makey Makey
Our idea was to create a small pot with a plant which has some automated functionalities. It has a small water container with an electric valve. A control signal can water the plant. Additionally, there will be some UV lights around the plant which can be turned on and off when necessary. We will put this automated plant in the living room of our clients parents house. We will put sensors in the house of our client girl so that we can track whether she has left home in the morning in a predefined time and also return home in the evening within a predefined time. Perhaps we can get this information from the sensor fixed onto a door of her living place in Colombo. Additionally, we can connect some sensor to track weather she used her plate for meals providing us the valuable information about her eating times. All these information is transferred from her living place in Colombo to her parents house where the automated plant resides. Our idea is to make the system to water the plant and provide light conditions when she leave home in the morning, return back in the evening and eat within a predefined time. Our hope is that the condition of the plant will reflect the good living condition in our clients life to her parents.

After this first workshop next day I attended to the keynote speech of Prof. Margot Brereton where she talked about different ways people have introduced ICT solutions for problems in the communities around the world and how they have succeeded and failed. Her keynote speech reflects a similar idea to Ravihansa's workshop where the importance of designing solutions with the user instead of for the user is highlighted. After her keynote speech, I took a picture of Prof. Margot and Ravihansa for the purpose of including in this article. Finally in last Saturday, there was another little workshop conducted by Prof. Margot where she helped us to visualize a problem by drawing with a paper and some color pens. Each participant was given a chance to select some problem with which they are dealing these days and then draw the connections of people and every other thing that relates to the problem. This method helps to identify the important parts of the problem and what are the things that should be considered when thinking about the solution.

As always, I enjoy meeting new people and getting to know various new things that broaden my understanding and improve my thinking about the world around me. Among various things I saw and people I met during the ICTer 2014 conference days, Professor Margot and Ravihansa are very important people and the knowledge and experiences they brought to me from Australia is awesome.


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